Although the state budget for 2023 is planned to be by far the largest within the 30 years of the country’s existence, the funds earmarked for 7 out of 10 preventive healthcare programmes are to be cut.
Despite the significant increase of the state budget planned for 2023, preventive healthcare is to be reduced by one-third compared to the previous two years, with slashes in as many as 7 out of 10 prevention programmes, civil society organisations ESE, the Šuto Orizari Women’s Initiative, and the organisations gathered around the Anti-HIV Platform sounded the alarm at today’s press conference that was held before the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia.
Reductions have been made in prevention programmes for cardiovascular diseases, blood donation organisation and promotion, preventive healthcare, mandatory immunisation, brucellosis prevention, tuberculosis prevention, protection against AIDS and for active health protection of mothers and children. The total budget for the preventive and curative healthcare programmes stands at the same level as in this year, even though the 2023 state budget will be the largest ever since the country’s independence.
Instead of increasing it in direct proportion to the state budget, the Ministry of Health’s budget remains practically unchanged, and from 3% – as was its allocation in the period between 2018 and 2020 – next year it will account for mere 2.1% of the total budget.
“Two years ago, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted a decision obliging the country to ensure the access to health services for the marginalised groups of people, but instead of doing so, the funding of programmes aimed at this population has now been curtailed”, reminded Almira Fasliji Muarem from the Šuto Orizari Women’s Initiative, reiterating that these budget cuts put the reproductive health of Roma women at risk, especially of pregnant women without health insurance and women without personal documentation.
The need for an adequate funding of the national programmes for HIV and for early detection of malignant diseases has been identified in the EU’s recently published North Macedonia Progress Report 2022.
“The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in September 2022 expressed their concern about the constant reduction of investments in the healthcare of mothers and children in the country, and only two months later, the country reduced the Mother and Child Programme’s budget by 3 million denars. On the other hand, the budget for the Malignant Diseases Screening Programme is also to be slashed, even though malignant diseases are among the leading causes of death in our country. For example, while the European countries record a cervical cancer screening coverage of more than 75%, this coverage in our country has stood at about 28% for the last three years”, reported Borjan Pavlovski of the ESE association.
Andrej Senih of the HIV patients’ association and the HIV Platform pointed out that the HIV Programme’s budget needs to increase so that all patients can be covered with therapy, which allows for a full control of the virus, and means life for such patients, and at the same time it prevents the virus from transmitting further. “It is equally important to continue and extend the existing testing and prevention measures among the vulnerable groups, who are often outside the healthcare system, as this would mean to detect as many new persons infected with the virus as possible and refer them to treatment. This is the only proven way for us to accomplish the globally set objective by 2025, and is in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation”, he said.
Therefore, we demand from the MPs of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia, particularly from the members of the Finances and Budget Committee, to adopt the amendments to the country’s 2023 budget proposal, specifically in its Item 19001 – Ministry of Health, concerning which we have already put forward our motion. Consequently, we demand these amendments to be accepted by the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, and be accordingly integrated in the Supplemented Budget Proposal of the Republic of North Macedonia for 2023, and make them a part of the Law on Execution of the Budget of the Republic of North Macedonia for 2023. We expect transparency and cooperation from all responsible parties, including the Government, as this concerns the health of our people.